Belated Birthday Gifts
The Zeppo Effect - A BTVS/ Mass Effect Tale
Author: B.H. Ramsay
Disclaimer: All Characters appearing herein are the property of their respective owners, Bioware & Mutant Enemy
Summary: A series of oneshots and vignettes about our favorite White Knight's quest to show the galaxy's newest hero how battling extinction level apocalypse is done with style ... well style and a little help from a few very, very powerful friends.
Choices, we all make them . good, bad, right, wrong. All the horror and all the beauty that we are capable of is because of our choices. I've learned a lot of things in my time. some lessons better then others but the one truth that I could never escape, never avoid , the truth that has stayed with me though all the tears and all the years...making choices is easy, living with them - that can be a lot harder.
"Yesterday was my birthday." Xander Harris said weakly,
"Don't speak," Dawn Summers snapped. choking back frightened sobs, not a good sign.
Xander tried to focus past the pain of the wound that was obviously killing him. He could hear other voices. No more crying or sobbing except for Dawn in fact he can hear some cries of joy.
They'd won The Brawl-for-it-all, Xander's little nickname for their pivotal battle against evil. Every major force for good finally tired of being picked off by the bad guys or watching loved ones abused and harassed. They'd all gone to war and finally after almost a year and a half of bloody drawn out conflict ... the last of the biggies was finished.
There had been casualties of course, No war is without casualties but the world was safe now, considering how many friends and allies had met theirend, if Xander didn't make it out of this one ...well then he was in very honored company "... Gonna get me a nice table in Club Valhalla." Xander thought to himself. Hell, he'd been absolutely sure he wouldn't make it out of high school alive let alone surviving long enough to stand beside earth mightiest heroes in their darkest hour. Xander Harris was luckier by far then he had any right to expect.
"Damn it Buffy - it's Xander." Willow's voice - she was angry.
"You tried this once before," Buffy snapped back, "... You do remember what almost happened."
"Buffy, its Xander."
"You keep saying that."
"... Because that should be the only thing that matters. Now are you going to help me?"
"Why can't we just heal him like normal?" Buffy asked.
"Are you kidding, the weapon that did this was meant originally to kill Gods with a capital G. Even Superman would barely survive a wound from a weapon like that, never mind Xander."
"So you're going to take primal energy ..."
"The force that makes you a Slayer and allows me to use magic ... Yeah That's exactly what I want to do ... it will work Buffy. Trust me, Xander will survie this."
"...And you don't think this is going to come back and bite us in the ass?"
"Buffy we just drop kicked every dark force that has ever looked at us crosswise off this plane of existence ...you think I'm really scared of the karmic backlash for saving my friend...our friend ... the person who stood by us even when the rest of the world was going to hell ... ?"
"Enough, All right Willis I'll help."
Xander groaned, "Dawn - how bad is it?" He asked Buffy's little sister, who would have thought that relationship would end up being the one that worked out and somehow broken his curse of dangerous women and weird romances.
"Its not so bad really," She lied, "just a scratch."
"Dawn you really need to learn how to lie better, you suck really bad at it ... Damn, I hate being impaled."
Willow and Buffy were there "Dawnie," Buffy said to her sister, "I need to you go back to the base camp."
"No," Dawn snapped her voice thick with emotion, "I don't want to leave him. I want to be here."
"You can't, not for this. it's dangerous enough. Willow has a plan, if it works we'll all be joining you and if not ... you can say your goodbyes then."
"What are you going to do?"
"If Willow is right , save his life."
Xander grunted as pain shot though him. "Don't move Xander you're dying." Willow whispered, "Buffy and me - we're going to fix you, fix it so it will be like you were never hurt."
"Bad Idea guys, we don't screw with the universe anymore, Remember. It gets really pissed with us when we do that."
"Shhh, you lie back, Buffy and me will handle it. It will be on us but we can't let you go. We won't let you go."
Willow's voice was echoing with power. She was speaking words ancient and powerful.
He heard Buffy now, looked into her eyes. As Willow chanted, they began to glow with power - or was that love ...for him? , it couldn't be. The universe would not play thatjoke on him now of all times.
"Think of this as a belated birthday gift Xand, happy birthday." Buffy said and kissed him softly. "Will is right Honey we can't let you go. We won't let you go. Not when we've come so far and done so much."
Suddenly the dull pain of dying was replaced by something very different and much more painful. Xander screamed and he couldn't help thinking that his scream sounded odd as if it was echoing down though a long long hallway he might never see the end of.
183 years later ...
As Commander Joan Shepard opened the door of the latrine the foul stench inside hit her. "Sargent Harris could I have a word." She gasped.
"If that word is gross you won't be the only one who's used it." Harris shouted from the depths of the building. She watched as his tall lanky form detached itself form the shadows. He looked like he did in all the vids, youthful face, athletic build ...she had even seen an extranet picture file that showed him posed without his shirt on. His body was covered by a web of scars that read like a historian combat primer.
"Commander Shepard of the SSV Normandy. You hear about us out here yet."
"Co-developed Deep Scout Frigate, Turian-Human hybrid... Shepard , You fought at Torfan right? You led the final assult on the slaver base there."
"...and?" Shepard waited expectantly, by now she'd heard all the comments, all the theories and even the not so subtle accusations and self-righteous posing whenever her actions during the Siege of Torfan came up for discussion.
"...And nothing, I'm not a big fan of slavery myself and I'm told Batarians don't exactly truck with the whole rules of engagement jive."
"They have Rules of Engagement," Shepard replied, "... So do I - I just prefer my rules to theirs."
Xander tossed a scrub brush over his shoulder with a casual flick of his wrist. The brush hit the bucket dead center dropping in.
"Nothing but Net." he muttered, he didn't so much as glance in the direction of the target. "Welcome to Fort Chuckles, Commander." He said to his visitor.
"Thanks, I wondered why you were cleaning latrines but if you called Fort Charles - Fort Chuckles infront of Gunny Ellison it makes sense."
"Oh this, no - Ellison has me conducting Hostile Environment Exercises, apperently if you can survive your unit getting eaten by Thresher Maws they think you can teach Assault and Survival Techniques to the FNG's." Xander gestured to the latrine, "This Commander Shepard, is what happens when you play Skllyian Five Poker against someone who I've begun to think is actually FROM Elysium."
Shepard held up a PDA, information scrolling across the amber screen. "Captain David Anderson is going to ask you to join the crew of the Normandy, How do you feel about ditching the latrines and getting some space time again."
Xander grimaced, "I can pound ground with the best of them ma'am."
Shepard smiled and shook her head, "There may be the occasional bit of ground pounding sailor but its your technical expertise we really need. We need a man at the tech station feeding Chief Engineer Adams real time data so he can make sure engines are operating at peak efficiency. Normandy's also got some big guns and I'd like to make sure Joker doesn't have to divide his attentions between flying the ship and shooting."
"I like big guns I cannot lie." Harris with with a blank look.
"Slow down there Tex," Shepard replied, "As a covert recon vessel our aim is to avoid engagement as much as possible."
"...Requiring use of Normandy's IES stealth systems. I'm told that when the heat sinks are full the ship's interior temperature is somewheres just south of an oven. quite the design flaw don't you think?"
Shepard nodded, "Your average Turian would feel so at home in a sauna or steam bath its not funny, complaining about the ship being too hot would seem ..."
"...Like more whining from the Earthers, " He assumed a mocking voice, "Oh the cutting edge ship is too hot wha, wha, wah."
Shepard laughed, she was finding that laughter came easily around this crewman. "...And now the boring stuff, Akuze - Anderson asked me to ask you so I'm asking."
"You know the same story everybody else does. Colony went dark - nobody knows why - Fifty Marines hit dirt to find the answers and boom - As first species encounters go; it ranks high on the scale of suck."
"When they found you, you were half starved... and talking to people who weren't there."
"At first it was just the other guys in the unit, after a while I started hallucinating people from back home. People I haven't seen ...in a long, long, time. It sounds crazy but it kept me going. talking to them it...kept me sane."
"Maybe even kept you alive."
"It takes a lot to kill me Commander." Xander looked at the Shepard's raised eyebrow, "That's not me being arrogant exactly - I just mean I've become very good at staying alive." Harris amended quickly.
"At least you didn't become some boring god boy afterward."
"... Let's just say I've learned that believeing only in what you can see or touch or taste is not a wise plan ... the universe is just waiting to kick people like that in the ass. I've spent too much time getting my ass kicked. I don't like it."
"It says here you're well educated - degrees in a dozen different fields." Shepard scrolled down the list, "Mechanical engineering, anthropology, linguistics ... what was basket weaving and thumb twirling full?"
"Have you seen the reading list for basket weaving? Trust me, studying a thousand year old dead language and culture is way easier."
"You can even speak several alien languages without the aid of the translator." Shepherd marveled.
Xander thought about correcting her, he didn't just speak a few alien languages ... something about the energies that sustained him over these last two centuries allowed him to speak them all.
"So Why would a brainiac want to serve and then seemingly avoid officer training?" Shepard asked.
Harris startled at her use of that word. Had it really been so long that people no longer remembered the demented twelfth level artificial intelligence. He noticed she was looking at him and he remembered he had not actually responded to her question. ... too many memories way, way too many he thought before answering her
"Cause I want to work for a living ma'am." Xander said "So can I ask, did you really manage to flip a Mako I mean really flip it?
Shepard rolled her eyes, "Do they still talk about that?" she sighed.
Xander snorted, "You rolled a vehicle that was designed- specifically - so that it would not roll over and you wonder why anyone still remembers it, you have to be kidding me?" The Serviceman laughed, "There's rumor anyone willing to duplicate the feat will win an appointment with the Asari Consort, paid for by the enlisted guys."
"Were you hoping to collect?"
"Have you seen an asari? they are all like an eleven on the hot scale and you can find one shaking her ass on a stage of every night club and strip bar in civilized space and beyond yet they have ONE who people are willing to wait for months just to talk to ... there has to be a reason for that."
"You do realize Asari don't JUST produce strippers and good time girls. they're well represented in every major mercenary group in operation today. And those are the ones who don't make the cut as Asari Commandos."
"Rumor has it they even have an elite sect of cops - Justicars I think they're called, the training for that carries a pretty scary mortality rate." Harris sighed, "You know. with my track record I'd meet one of them or a Commando before I ever get to meet a stripper."
Shepard shook her head, typical male she thought. Still the fact he'd taken the time to learn as much about Asari culture as he had put him way out in front of must of the horn-dog males who spent their extranet access mouth breathing over the universally attractive blue alien species.
"Our navigator Jeff Moreau mentioned your name." She continued, "...Says you might be the best weapons and tech guy he's ever come across."
"I'm curious how would you two have ever met, you're ground side - he's flight."
"Friend of the family ... One of his cousins used to date a very old and dear friend. before we ...lost touch."
"Is Joker from the Santa Angeles Megaplex?"
"Your file says you come from Santa Angeles. I assume you come from the megaplex."
"I grew up in Sunnydale."
Xander blinked before sucking his teeth in annoyance, "Yeah Sorry about that I mean I grew up NEAR Sunnydale."
"Your parents were anti establishment too huh?, That was why mine moved out to the Traverse and settled on Mindior."
"Ouch, I can see why you're touchy about the whole Torfan thing If I'd watched my neighbours being stuffed into slaves pens It might not go well if I found myself fighting the guys I blamed for that."
"There were humans involved with the raid against Elysium and I killed a more then a few human pirates when we raided Torfan." Shepard gave a dismissive wave,"Anyway, unless you have other plans, Captain Anderson will take care of the paperwork. You'll need a few days of orientation aboard ship then its showtime. I'm hearing we'll be posting picket duty maybe with the 63rd Scout Flotilla under Admiral Mikhailovich which means they'll have us staring at the Terminus Systems all day long."
"Oh if we get out to Omega we should hit The Afterlife - great little club, stay away from the drinks in the lower bar though. The Batarian down there serves a drink that goes down like ground glass."
And that was how it began just another routine recruit for what was supposed to be a routine mission. of course they always say that before a mission starts. Its the weird stuff that happens during the mission and how you respond that make it not so routine.